Archive for July, 2008

Directly From Me to You, Get Your Popcorn and Soda And Your Spare Underware:American Airlines Baggage Mess – iReport.com

Posted on July 31, 2008. Filed under: Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Howdy air traveler another day in the life of your travel these days. Below is what I left as a comment on the USA Today article on this problem. Enjoy! (This awesome video is at the bottom of this page and the guy did a great job narrating for you.)

(A short disclaimer on this video: Although American Airlines is the airline in the spotlight for this major problem, I want to let you know as I have written this in my book as well that it is quite common for the “Airport Authority” to own the baggage moving equipment and not the airline. In many airports the airlines lease this from the airport in their monthly fees. I am not sure if this is the case with AA at JFK or not. The airlines like their customers end up paying the price for something that is out of their control.)

My friend sent me a video of this luggage mess last night that a passenger took at JFK. She knew I would be interested since I am the author of The Empty Carousel a Consumer’s Guide to Checked and Carry-on Luggage and a former system manager for baggage services and veteran with the airlines for almost 20 years.
See folks you do not need weather or even natural disasters to cause this kind of chaos for the air traveler and your luggage. It’s what the airlines are not telling their customers who have faith that if they leave and go ahead to their destination without their luggage, chances are exceptionally high that the customer will not see their luggage on the next flight or even the next day!! This happened not so long ago in Orlando and many thousands of bags did not travel with their customers either, I was there and saw the mess that outdated baggage equipment can cause and does cause every day around the country.

What you have now is a logistical nightmare when there are this many bags that have to be processed by airline workers at one time. Once you identify a bag and its destination or “When” you have to get it on the correct flight and the agents on the other end at your destination have to then process the bag, set up delivery with usually a private company which operates on their own schedule and availability for delivery of bags.

Now lets say the customer is traveling with an old name tag on their luggage (believe me this happens all the time) Now the airline is trying to process a bag for a person that may not exist with old contact information. What about the bags that are tagged with the wrong bag tag and goes to another destination than the owner of the bag.

Airlines have limited staff to handle this mess. I have seen this kind of mess happen from one snow storm and it usually takes a week to process all the bags for all the customers and still you end up with bags that you cannot find owners to.

This is just a small sample of what can and will go wrong for many of these travelers who leave without their luggage. I am also pretty sure the airline is not telling their customer what they are entitled to when luggage goes missing. A false promise of a bag arriving on the next flight or the next day during this kind of mess is not a good thing and I would hope the customers are being told EVERYTHING they need to know by the airline but then I am an optimist and I know how things usually end up for the unsuspecting traveler.

What the airlines should do that charge fees for checked luggage is simple. By refunding the new fee for every bag mishandled that was charged a fee would take HUGE chunks of potential profits out of the airline’s revenue and would force airline executives to place increased emphasis on improving their luggage handling performance. But the airlines have made the bold comment that even if they mishandle your luggage, they will NOT refund the new checked baggage fee!

To me that is an unbelievable statement to make when luggage handling has been on the decline for many years in a row and as Congress said in 2006 when they addressed the increasing problems of mishandled luggage with the ATA (Air Transportation Association) Congress concluded “we are sympathetic to the problem but it is clear that there is no help on the way.”

And that folks is why I wrote my book for you the air travelers. I would love travelers who are directly impacted by this to contact me through my website so I can hear their story and possibly add it to my website so others can hear their experience. I will not stop working until you the traveler leave and arrive with your luggage in hand, intact, with all the contents you packed! Safe travels to you always.

Scott T. Mueller
Author The Empty Carousel a Consumer’s Guide to Checked and Carry-on Luggage

 

www.TheEmptyCarousel.com

Scott@TheEmptyCarousel.com

 

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Delta Today Announced it is Doubling The Fee For A Second Checked Bag, OUCH!!

Posted on July 30, 2008. Filed under: Travel, Uncategorized |

Just a quick note today to keep you informed for your travels. Delta Air Lines is raising its fee for checking a second bag from $25 to $50 and is also raising fees for bags weighing more than 50 pounds and special items, including surfboards. Delta does not currently charge for your first checked bag.

What does this mean for you? I have said it in the past and my prediction has come to pass with these fees for luggage. When a major carrier like Delta sets a new bar for fees for your checked luggage, this usually is followed by other carriers even the smaller carriers. When the “big boys” do this, it usually makes the path safe for others to follow so beware and ask questions before you travel.

A Delta spokesperson said “this is still a good value as opposed to shipping your bag with a luggage shipping service.” The difference is this, you have a few more gaurantees with a luggage shipping service than you do with the airlines who are consitently on the decline with their luggage handling performance. And lets also throw this reminder out there again, the airlines blodly state they will not refund the fee you pay for your checked luggage regardless if they mishandle your luggage in any way. It may be cheaper to pay the airlines but you are certainly at greater risk in my opinion and according to the statistics of which many I have posted on my website at www.TheEmptyCarousel.com

The choice is always yours but educate yourself before you become another statistic of the declining airline luggage handling process. How much can you afford to lose?

Safe travels to you always,

Scott T. Mueller

Author The Empty Carousel a Consumer’s Guide to Checked and Carry-on Luggage

Scott@TheEmptyCarousel.com

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My Cruise is in the Bag Baby, But Where is my Luggage? Oh #!%!!! it is Formal Night Tonight!!

Posted on July 23, 2008. Filed under: Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

How are all you brave air travelers doing today? I hope you are well amidst all the new added baggage fees from the airlines, fuller flights, less flight options, oh yeah, lets not forget many airlines are now charging us to mishandle our luggage on top of the stress and chaos of air travel in today’s challenging world.

So lets talk about your cruise and what happens when you arrive to your ship for your departure but your luggage does not. If you think you are out of the woods and this is a simple fix my friend, think again, this is a mess and your challenges have just begun. Over my years as system manager of baggage services I helped more air/cruise travelers with this very real problem that is a spin-off from the continuing decline of luggage handling. Chances are this may have happened to you or someone you know or will happen at some point if you fly and cruise.

First lets address your first steps you must take to protect yourself, I will then address how the airlines will handle this and what your rights are that you MUST know because the airlines don’t always spell out your options to you. I will then address how this can be a very complicated process for the airline to finally get your luggage with you at one of your ships ports of call.

  • When you arrive to the airport and your luggage did not arrive with you, you MUST file a luggage claim with the airline you arrived to your final destination on. This rule applies regardless if the final carrier was responsible for the delay, loss, damage, etc. of your luggage, or if you were rerouted to another carrier from your original itinerary etc. DO not fall victim to the airline baggage agent who tells you otherwise, they are just passing the buck with you and you will certainly be coming back to see them in the end but now 10 times more frustrated and angry.
  • Provide the airline representative with your cruise information, departure time of the ship, ports of call, dates of arrival and departure, your immediate contact information, ships contact information. Also ask the airline representative for their detailed plan to reunite you with your luggage in the event your ship leaves before they can get your luggage to the ship at your departure point.
  • Provide the baggage rep with detailed information about your missing luggage i.e. who is the name of the person on the luggage ID tags affixed to the luggage? What brand and color is the luggage? What type of bag is it? Look at the IATA Baggage chart to identify the bag type that most closely matches your type of missing luggage. What are the characteristics that would make your luggage stand out? Be detailed and accurate in providing information to the airline rep, doing so will only help the airline baggage rep help you.
  • Ask the airline representative for a complete print out of their plan so you have all the details for your ship’s crew as the ship crew will need to know so they can begin their process to work with vendors to retrieve your luggage if it arrives at one of the ships ports of call.  
  • Cruise ships crew members help many of their guests with lost luggage problems just like you so they will need this information to help them help you.
  • Ask the airline representative what their hours of operation are at the airport you arrived to without your luggage. Many times a baggage office is unmanned much of the day and the phones go to voice mail which can be very frustrating for you or your ships crew if they are in need to talk to an airline rep. Make sure you ask for either the ticket counter phone number which is almost always manned during hours of operation AND ask for the airlines station manager’s direct phone number. Station managers tend to check their messages often and will contact the appropriate airline rep to have them contact you, or you may hear from the airline manager them self. (That is what I use to do, call my customers and take care of them) Also ask for email addresses as cruise ships have email access available to you in the event you do not have cell phone signal while cruising, you most certainly can access the ships email station to then access your personal email from anywhere so email addresses is critically important as this will provide you with a REAL option for communication with your air carrier and will also save you time. You can ask for the airlines local email address for the baggage service office, the supervisor, the GM, and I would also ask for  the Central Baggage Service email as well. Make copies and keep all your records of email attempts and any other attempts to contact the airline during your ordeal.

 

Now that you have all this information, what about formal night for the first nights dinner on your cruise ship? Swim suits, shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, sandals, etc. Your situation you are now facing is what I write in my book about being considered a  grey area for the airlines and lost, delayed, damaged, luggage and cruising. Let me explain for you. Even though airlines are fighting for survival, they still want or should want to retain you as a customer so you will fly them again and tell your friends to fly them as well.

Ask the airline rep at your arrival airport before you leave for your ship, what are they going to do for you monetarily, seeing that they did not get your luggage to your destination and now you are facing a HUGE inconvenience for the first day or two of your cruise. My guess is from a baggage rep you will be told the usual pitch which is true and standard but will go something like this, “Mr. Smith, we are not able to offer you any compensation within the first 24 hours of your luggage being delayed but if the bag or bags do not arrive by tomorrow, you are entitled to spend up to $25.00 per day on toiletries, etc. but you must save your receipts for reimbursement later” This is standard so expect to hear it from the airline rep.

At this point, if you receive the “Standard Answer” ask to speak to the airlines General Manager at your location or a supervisor. Ask “Courteously” for an allowance that is REASONABLE for your immediate needs. Such as $250.00. You can generally purchase a nice pair of pants, dress shirt, shoes, etc. to tide you over until your luggage arrives with you. The airlines understand a reasonable request for reasonable circumstances. If you can get by with less, then ask for less but the key is to be polite, professional, and reasonable and you probably will get what you are asking for. Make sure you write down and document the names of all airline reps you speak to especially when given authorization to spend money.

Make sure the airline rep documents this in your claim record and make sure you save all your receipts for any items purchased as the refund to you will be processed and approved by the airline’s General Manager at your airport destination or the Central Baggage Service Manager for the airline and this is not negotiable.

If the airline GM at your location or a supervisor denies you this, immediately ask to speak to the Central Baggage Services Manager as it is this person who knows their job best and usually has the final decision on this sort of additional compensation.

I ought to know as I did this for many of my former customers and it is fair considering the circumstances at hand. In the event your luggage does not arrive in a day or two, then I would ask for and get permission for additional compensation to be refunded later, usually after a 30-45 day claims process.

DO NOT PURCHASE ANYTHING without permission and expect full compensation back from the airline. You may find yourself coming up short on monetary reimbursement if you do this.

Now the challenge is for the airline to find your luggage and now reroute it on another airline to your cruise port or ports of call depending on how long it takes them to find your luggage and get it to you.  This is a challenge none the less and I have seen bags arrive at ports and sit there undelivered even while the ship is in port. The ship leaves and your luggage was not far from you but we are now dealing with different cultures and priorities and most of the time the priorities are not the same as yours. So now the airline has to get the bag from that port and have a second or third party make an effort to get your luggage to your next port. Can you see the complexity of this mess, the domino affect has now begun. I have seen this sort of thing turn into a nightmare for my customers. Remember the worse the nightmare for the airline’s customer, the more you have the right to demand compensation and when these things happen compensation is easier to obtain from the air carrier.

So how can you prevent much of this from ever causing you such an inconvenience when taking a cruise? Easy, plan ahead a little and prepare for the worse. Most cruisers are partying before their flight leaves their home airport, the shorts are on, the vacation has begun. 

Wear a set of your formal clothing on the flight as if your going for a business meeting or a nice pair of pants, skirt, shirts, shoes etc. Something you could wear for a dinner on your ship. Pack your sandals, swim suit etc. in a carry-on bag. Now you are pretty much prepared when bad things happen to your luggage and the luggage handling process is on the decline so you have to become more savvy when traveling by air. Plan a bit more even if it means not wearing your shorts on your flight to your cruise departure city. A little discomfort can save you a great deal of hassle in the long run. Be creative but you can do it. An ounce of prevention can save you major headaches and loss of valuable time, worry, stress and more. 

Simply do what I did with my family a while back when we flew from FL to Vancouver B.C. and took a 7 day cruise to Alaska; we all had 1 carry-on bag per person with enough mix and match clothes to take the entire cruise and have all the clothing we needed. It worked out fine for us and none of us suffered for it. We never had to check a bag and never worried about it.

Just keep in mind that when you face luggage problems and don’t know where to turn,  that is where I come in, you can simply email me through my website and get free advice from me that can help you. Cruising is an awesome experience and I can’t wait to take my next cruise. Enjoy and have a great time!!!

Safe travels to you and yours,

Scott T. Mueller

Author The Empty Carousel a Consumer’s Guide to Checked and Carry-on Luggage

www.TheEmptyCarousel.com

Scott@TheEmptyCarousel.com

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